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United States Caribbean diving reviews_ chapbook 2007

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United States Caribbean diving reviews_ chapbook 2007 Powered By Docstoc
					 The Wider Caribbean                                           UNITED STATES
2006, Gary W Brown (gkbrown@vci.            There was one show-off octopus fanned
net), Benton, KY. Experience: 101-250       out over something on the wall. Saw
dives. Vis: 60 to 100 Feet. Water: 78 to    a huge group of garden eels. This was
80 F, choppy. We loved the tiny island      my first time back diving anywhere
of Salt Cay and the people. Debbie at       near the Bahamas in 20 years and I was
Salt Cay Divers helped us make travel       shocked at how little live staghorn and
arrangements and on site reservations.      elkhorn coral is left. Soft corals were
It was pretty windy and the visibility      plentiful and healthy. Debbie could
was stirred up a bit. The dive opera-       not have been more helpful. She seems
tion is first class. Matt and Trevor set     to run everything on the island. One
up all of our equipment each day. Most      day she helped us in the dive shop,
of the diving is done from small boats,     the boutique, and at the Tradewinds,
backrolling into the water. The walls       then cooked and served our dinner.
are nice but there was quite a lot of       That night she was up to 1:00 AM to
sand covering some coral. Dive your         arrange an emergency evacuation and
own profile and come up with 500 psi.        then picked us up at 4:45AM for the
Very friendly staff and hard working        trip to the airport, where she took care
to make sure you enjoy your vacation.       of the baggage and the tickets. Salt Cay
Several people told us that a good time     is fascinating, with lots of bicycling,
to visit is May and June. We did see a      hiking, beach combing and exploring.
few whales and sometimes heard them         We stopped to peer in the windows of
calling while diving. Some wonderful        an old church, only to be invited in and
places to eat include Island Thyme,         shown around by a friendly islander.
Pats, Mt. Pleasant and the Green Flash.     Bought breakfast and lunch supplies
Make reservations ahead to be sure          at Miss Netty’s, limited selection but
food is prepared. Very quiet, uncrowded     her bread is great. Dinners were at Salt
and remote island. Transportation is by     Cay Divers or Miss Pat’s and all were
bicycle or golf cart.                       good. Don’t forget to make reserva-
                                            tions. Tradewinds guest suites are clean,
Salt Cay Divers, Tradewinds Guest           comfortable, convenient and yes, the
Suites, July 2006, Bob and Diane            trade winds blow through all day. Air
Moore (mooresrv@aol.com), Cleve-            Turks and Caicos was on time but their
land, OH. Experience about 100 dives.       schedule does not fit with the airline
Nothing has changed since the 2005          schedules to Provo so you may lose a
reports in the Chapbook. The diving         lot of time sitting in the Provo airport.
is good and easy. Salt Cay divers were      Contact Debbie at Salt Cay Divers to
accommodating with never more than          arrange your trip.
6 divers in a 24’ Carolina Skiff, often
only the 2 of us. They went where we
wanted, when we wanted, guided us
at our pace and helped with the gear.
                                            UNITED STATES
Rental gear was old and tattered but
quite serviceable. The reef is in good      Florida
shape with lots of small critters but few
                                            Southern Swim and Scuba, Atlanta
larger fish. There were large schools of
                                            Technical Divers, North Florida Cave,
jacks, goatfish and spadefish and lots of
                                            July 2006, David N Scarborough
parrotfish. We saw only a few solo angel
                                            (david@wan2dive.com), Douglasville,
fish, a few nurse sharks and lobster.
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GA. Experience: 251-500 dives. Vis: 100      who barely can swim. Not a spectacular
to 120 Feet. Water: 60 to 64 F, calm.        place for exploration and photography,
Cave system tour and training — while        but the water is so clean you won’t need
in Mexico and diving in the Cenotes, I       to rinse your gear. Seagrass Resort has
was taken in by the sites and systems,       simple cabins on river. Nearby pub
came back to USA to start cave and           has good shrimp dinners but you can
trimix training. Training to tec dive so     cook your own meals in the cabins;
I can shoot video of USS Oriskany in         large grocery store nearby, all sorts
Pensacola, Florida. This dive shop is a      of restaurants and tourist facilities in
wonderful place to start training; staff     Homossassa Springs and Crystal River.
knowledgeable and understanding of           Could be a good place to take non-div-
teaching an old dog new tricks. We have      ing family.
done training for dry suit and Cavern
and intro to Cave, have been bitten by       Florida Panhandle
the fresh water bug. Love the non-sea-
sick and not having to clean gear of salt.   Scuba Tech, July 2006, David Reubush
Must come to terms with cold water,          (davereubush@cox.net), Toano, VA.
heavy equipment — this training will         Experience: 501-1000 dives. Vis: 30
help anyone become a better diver.           to 40 Feet. Water: 80 to 85 F, calm, no
                                             currents. I called Monday and went out
Crystal River                                Wednesday. Scuba Tech is on Hwy 98,
                                             the main drag in Destin. Their boat is
American Pro Divers, Seagrass Inn            docked at a marina across the street
Resort, January 2006, Mary Wicksten,         from the shop. The boat is a 45 ft. con-
Bryan, TX. Experience: Over 1000             verted crew boat with an enclosed cabin
dives. Vis: 7 to 40 Feet. Water: 68 to       and covered open area in the back that
72 F, calm. Freshwater springs and           gives you fresh air but keeps you out
caverns of northwestern Florida. I also      of the sun. The boat was in good shape
snorkeled with the manatees. Excellent       and had the cleanest head of any dive
opportunities to tickle these animals        boat I have ever been on. The whole op-
and get some top-notch photos, despite       eration was well run. Most of the divers
your skill with a camera. Went div-          were newbies and they had several dive
ing from a pontoon boat in Rainbow           masters on the boat who split the new-
River. Clear water, clean sand, bubbling     bies up into small groups. I buddied up
springs, lots of fish including strange       with a relatively experienced diver and
bowfin. Explored King Springs, which          we were allowed to do our own thing.
bubbles up in the middle of a bay; cat-      During the surface interval the crew
fish at bottom, tarpon at surface! Also       swapped our tanks for us and then cut
visited Manatee Springs, Weeki Watchee       up a fresh pineapple for our snack. The
Springs (you, too, can be a mermaid!)        visibility was only about 30 feet and
and springs near Ocala. Clear water but      once on the bottom there wasn’t much
dropped off quickly to spooky depths         to see anyway. Our first dive was on a
for cave-certified only; make sure you        “reef.” Actually, a step in the bottom
are NOT overweighted! Staff has well-        that ran for several hundred yards with
stocked shop, professional manner. No        a little bit of coral. The depth was 80-85
hassles if you can take care of yourself     ft. and my buddy sucked air so we had
– they have enough trouble with people       limited bottom time. The second dive

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was to the Destin bridge rubble (con-         Lauderdale. Todd is the boat captain,
crete slabs). This dive went from 60-70       and he takes reservations from his cell
ft. so there was also not a huge amount       phone. The currents were abysmal,
of bottom time. The only interesting          but the AD2 crew both recognized
things were a few neat star fish and lots      that and worked hard to prepare the
of highhats. Had a rinse bucket on the        divers for it, taking care to make sure
boat for cameras.                             they exited from the right spot on the
                                              back of the boat and got immediately
Viking Diving, June 2006, David               onto the descent line. The dive was on
N Scarborough (david@wan2dive.                Tenneco Towers, a set of sunken oil rigs
com), Douglasville, GA. Experience:           that is considered an advanced dive
251-500 dives. Vis: 125 to 150 Feet.          due to depth (bottoms at 140 feet) and
Water: 84 to 74 F, calm. Viking Diving        the mentioned current. Divers should
of Pensacola is set up to dive the USS        take this to heart when considering
Orskiany. Our crew helps get diver in         diving the site. On a good day you can
and out of water.Small 6 pac boat. Dive       get 80-foot vis, and a billion fish and
briefing and instruction was given.            no current; on a bad day, you’re lucky
He does furnish a cooler on boat and          you don’t end up being swept up to
water. Take any drinks or food with           Cocoa Beach. Second dive was a drift
you. Snack furnished. 2 hr trip from          dive at 60 feet on the third level of Fort
dock to site. Very knowledgeable about        Lauderdale’s reefs that have a lot of cut
wreck and area diving. Works with local       unders and furrows to explore. There
dive shop well. Spearfishing was done          were lots of lobster, some eels, the usual
while on wreck and while returning to         tropical suspects and one or two skit-
dock. Rinse tank for gear on dock upon        tish nurse sharks hiding their heads in
returning, fresh water rinse for video        the sand so we would not see them. The
unit. Local dive shop MBT good people         boat issues drifters their own marker,
to work with for tec gas, and reg air fills.   and when you come up, where you
This is a great dive. The Gulf was calm       come up, the boat comes to get you.
and flat- little current on top none on        AD2 is a well run operation, the boat
wreck. Great wreck but is deep, not for       has a head, and provides drinks (sodas
new divers, check out rules on web sites      and water) and crackers (peanut butter
- search under Pensacola diving. Our          or cheese) after the dive. They have air
boat did not have a table or way to tie       temperature showers on the dive deck
down video unit. But area was given to        and warm water rinse hose. Good dive-
set unit. Carry extra strap to handle. No     masters and crew.
on board rinse tank but can rinse with
water from tank.
                                              Islamorada
Ft. Lauderdale                                Key Dives, February 2006, Marjorie
                                              (stutlerinchrist@tds.net), Millington,
American Dream II, June 2006,                 MI. Experience: 0-25 dives. Vis: 75 Feet.
Melissa Good (merwolf@bellsouth.              Water: 65 to 72 F, choppy, currents. Key
net), Pembroke Pines, FL. Experience:         Dives in Islamorada was awesome! I’m
101-250 dives. Vis: 40 to 50 Feet. Water:     a beginner diver; and they set up our
80 to 84 F, choppy, currents. Ameri-          equipment, had it on the boat and all
can Dream II is a 43-foot custom dive         ready to go. Dive master was with us
boat that ports out of Pier 66 in Fort

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the whole time, showing us fish, turtles      nice and runs a great resort. Go for
and stuff. We saw a viper eel, sharks,       the best room in the place: W2B – The
tons of fish, corals, and went down on        Green Moray. It is not elegant (noth-
a wreck. I was really nervous my first        ing here is) but it is very comfortable
dive. He calmed me down and got me           and has a tremendous large screened in
to relax and was really patient! We had      deck. It has a kitchen and one smallish
experienced divers with us — they were       bathroom. It is right beside the boat
left to go on their own. I rented equip-     slip, and right on the water. We loved
ment (which was in good shape). They         it. There is no food service here, except
helped us in anyway we needed.               for a very basic breakfast: bagels, butter,
                                             jam and peanut butter; along with juice
Key Largo                                    and coffee. Basic. There are some grills
                                             to cook on outside. Take advantage of
Amoray Dive Resort, August 2005, Joe         the good seafood in the area and grill
Sindorf (jsindorf@gmail.com), Rock-          out one night. But put mosquito repel-
ford, MI. Experience: 26-50 dives. Vis:      lant on if you do. I thought those were
40 to 85+ Feet. Water: 78 to 82 F, calm,     flying piranha. Do a night dive, and
surge. This is not a cheap dive vacation,    beg the Captain to take you to Molas-
but it is worth it! This was a family dive   ses Reef at night and not the normal
vacation. We flew into Miami, rented an       little wreck. The night dive is uber cool.
SUV and drove down. There were four          You can rent lights. The night dive was
of us — my wife, two teen daughters          the highlight of our trip. There are so
and myself. Amoray was the first stop         many good restaurants — if you want
on a two-week dive vacation. The staff       suggestions, email me. Bottom line: not
is tremendous. The boat captain knows        inexpensive, but very good. We loved it.
his stuff and takes suggestions about        Oh, talk the crew into playing the Amo-
where to dive. Everyone on the boat is       ray song for you. It is so corny and fun
an instructor, and they are totally help-    that you’ll be singing it the rest of your
ful. Back to the staff — this is a total     trip — That’s Amoray! UW Photogra-
diving resort; everyone dives. They are      phy Comments: Big catamaran boat,
honest and helpful. We did not get an        lots of space for messing with your gear.
optimistic dive report, not even once.       Big rinse tub just for cameras. Patient
The vis and conditions were always           boat crew. Divemaster gave ideas for
better than they told us to expect. Seth     where cool stuff hung out.
was always ready to help, Kat was fabu-
lous, but needs to hear “the customer        Amoray Dive Resort, April 2006, John
is always right” message again — but,        Fletcher (john_fletcher@bellsouth.
she is so cute you’ll forgive her. There     net), Pelham, AL. Experience: 26-50
was an error on the room rate — she          dives. Vis: 60 to 75 Feet. Water: 77 to
realized a mistake was made, but said        85 F, choppy. If I had known how diver
that price was wrong and we needed to        focused this operation was, I would
pay the higher rate. You try winning a       have made every effort to convince my
discussion with her! It was not a huge       wife to stay there so I wouldn’t have
problem. Even the groundskeepers             had to deal with commuting my gear
were tremendous. Eddie cut fresh green       around Key Largo! Being able to liter-
coconuts for us! You know when Amy           ally step out of your room and onto the
(the owner) is there because she parks       boat with all of your stuff ready was
her Volvo right down by the boat! She’s      appealing. The attention you receive
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from every member of the staff and            PR. (guigo34@hotmail.com), Experi-
crew was genuine and sincere. Amo-            ence: 501-1000 dives. Vis: 50 to 70 Feet.
ray operates in the John Pennekamp            Water: 82 to 84 F, choppy. This was my
Marine Sanctuary. My first dives were          second dive on the Spiegel Grove with
on Elbow Reef at the Sand Chutes and          Spencer Slate and Neal Watson. On the
the City of Washington wreck. The             first one several years ago the ship was
corals and sea fans were plentiful and        on its side and there were no buoys nor
healthy, the tropicals and blennies were      descent lines, compounded by a ripping
plentiful: butterflys, tangs, angels, jacks,   current. This time the ship was upright
grunts, parrotfish, trunkfish, sgt.majors,      and a sight to behold. There are now
etc. We went to French Reef to dive           no less than 10 moorings and, with the
the Hour Glass Reef and the Sand Box          weather being dismal, we were the only
Caves. Both days, I dived with Patrick        ones on the wreck, courtesy of Slate,
McCoy as the DM/Instructor. He could          a genial host. There was no current to
handle a newly certified diver and her         speak of. This is a wreck that ought to
older family member without cramping          be dived several times due to its sheer
my dive plan at all. The max. number of       size. There is now abundant growth
divers was 6 with 3+ crew members.            and it is home to many large goliath
Amoray Dive Resort, May 2006, Walt            groupers and barracuda.
Suita, Sharon, MA. Experience: 251-           Blue Water Divers of Key Largo,
500 dives. Vis: 75 to 100 Feet. Water:        November 2005, Chuck Donaldson
80 to 85 F, calm, currents. Weekend           (scuba@yahoo.com), Portland, OR.
package deal — two two-tank boat trips        Experience: 101-250 dives. Vis: 30 to
plus a one-tank night dive. They have         70 Feet. Water: 74 to 78 F, choppy, no
two boats; one is a nice six pack set up      currents. Two man operation next to
for premium tours. The other boat is a        the Holiday Inn. The office is a kiosk
30-plus foot, 34-seat catamaran. They         at parking lot level and can be found
filled every seat on the catamaran on          easily by its sign and proximity to the
all trips but the night dive. Can you         “African Queen” display. Contact with
say cattle boat? For crew, there was a        Brent Hilliard (www.bluewaterdiver.
captain and only one divemaster on            net). We set up our trip and Nitrox
board. If you were to need two-person         instruction via email and everything
CPR, who’s going to captain the boat?         turned out exactly as promised. BWD
On one “deep” (100 ft.), somebody had         set up our accommodations at the Ma-
a “situation” and the lone divemaster         rina Del Mar which were provided at
spent several minutes getting suited up.      the agreed upon good price and proved
Not a lot of safety planning here. The        to be exactly as advertised. Proximity to
service was indifferent from the front        BWD’s boat was a plus, and could get
office all the way to the dive ladder.         breakfast and walk to the boat. Because
The room was dirty, plain and simple          groups are small (no more than 10
— great CATV though. The continental          and more frequently 4-6 folks) where
breakfast was bagged bagels, a toaster,       you go and what you dive can be both
and community peanut butter. Cremo-           flexible and interesting. Brent Hilliard
ra for the coffee just doesn’t cut it.        dove with us, not as a divemaster, but
Atlantis Dive Center, July 2006,              as a fellow diver which made for great
Gabriel I. Peñagarícano, Guaynabo,            diving. Brent’s site briefs provided
                                              plenty of information. We met him on
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a couple of the wrecks we dove and          gear was in good shape.
he was able to point out interesting
features (a pair of 7 foot Bull Sharks)     HMS Minnow, Key Largo Holiday
on the fly. We dove Spiegel Grove twice,     Inn, October 2005, Dean Knudson
Duane twice and Bibb. My son and            (deanknudson@yahoo.com), Golden
I wanted to qualify and dive Nitrox.        Valley, MN. Experience: 251-500 dives.
We set up instruction in advance and        Vis: 40 to 80 Feet. Water: 77 to 82 F,
were greeted by an excellent instructor.    calm, choppy. The boat is small, but the
After passing the exam, we went down        sites are close, and the boat is on the
to Ocean Divers to pick up our tanks.       ocean side, minutes from the dive sites.
The instructor walked us through test-      The morning trip departs 7:30 a.m.
ing and documenting our tanks. We           sharp (Jeff will call your hotel room
rented our tanks and moved them to          if you are holding up the others!) to
the boat. BWD made arrangements for         have first choice on the mooring balls.
us to pick up tanks at the Ocean Divers     Key Largo diving can be hit and miss,
dock on the way out rather than having      visibility wise, and the skipper reserves
to get them on our own. Blue Water          the right to eyeball a few sites before
Diver is a Coast Guard inspected thirty     selecting the spot. The boat is limited
foot custom open transom dive ves-          to six passengers, service is personable.
sel. We found it comfortable and fast.      Jeff doesn’t say much initially, but when
The porta-pot is probably best saved        he warms up he has the unvarnished
for emergencies since some rigging is       wisdom and gentle humor of an ex-cop
required. Electronics appear up to date     retired in the tropics. Spiegel Grove
and the boat briefing is well done. Cap-     dives without advanced certification are
tain Glen Marvel gets you to the dive       a possibility, but Jeff has to watch you
site quickly and skillfully. Folks from     for a bit before he decides to take you
the Pacific Northwest are sometimes          there, and he might want to take a peek
surprised to find out that not every         at your log. If the Spiegel Grove was
location is nonmoving. On Blue Water        not in the area, there would be precious
Diver, the Captain smoked on the boat       little there to attract intermediate or ad-
as did other divers. Good operator, dive    vanced divers. Since that wreck flipped
where you want to dive.                     upright in the hurricane, it has become
                                            one of the best wreck dives I have been
Blue Water Divers, July 2006, Tricia        on, rivaling the C-52 in Cozumel, and
Coyle (tricia.coyle@gmail.com),             better than the Hilma Hooker in Bo-
Madison, NJ. Experience: 26-50 dives.       naire. Talk to Jeff when booking about
Water: 79 to 81 F, calm, choppy. Clear,     the days he might anticipate mak-
mostly calm, warm water plus good vis,      ing a run there. Space is tight on this
abundant marine life and corals, wrecks     relatively small boat, watch the aisles
for divers of all levels. Blue Water        and keep your bench tidy. The reefs are
Divers was great. They are laid-back        somewhat green with algae, but the fish
and the boat was uncrowded. They let        life in the marine preserve is consistent-
divers have input on what reefs/wrecks      ly good year to year. Excellent beginner
to dive and gave practical briefings for     diving, if you have a newly certified
how to dive the sites (less rehearsed and   diver in your family or group. The Key
flowery, more about best way to make         Largo Holiday Inn is comfortable, rea-
the most out of the dive). Also, rental     sonably priced, has a nice pool and Tiki
                                            bar, and the rooms are 100 feet from
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the HMS Minnow. The Island Grill, 10          Instructors, dive masters, and boat crew
to 15 miles west on the highway, is an        are accommodating and knowledge-
excellent and charming restaurant, with       able. They have two boats: one is a 45 ft.
a great view and nice solo guitar music       double v-hull flat top, the other a 36 ft.
some evenings. UW Photography Com-            single hull. Both are fully equipped and
ments: Boat is small, but there is a table    well maintained, and both are powered
and a rinse tank. The skipper is careful      by twin large outboards. The 45 ft. boat
with photo and video gear.                    has modern diving ladders on both
                                              sides. Weights are organized in a locker
Horizon Divers, Ramada, January               and dunk tanks for masks and cameras
2006, Ron Jyring, Bismarck, ND.               are also available. Entry into the water
Experience: 51-100 dives. Vis: 25 to 40       is by giant stride. The dive site was at
Feet. Water: 75 to 77 F, calm, surge, no      Elbow Reef, Anchor Chain, at John
currents. The purpose of this trip to         Pennekamp State Park. Seas were 3-5
complete my 12-year-old son’s open            ft. A second dive was scrubbed because
water certification. Horizon Divers’           a diver needed medical attention for
boat is especially suited for new divers:     an ear problem. It’s a Dive has locked
quite stable, spacious, and with rela-        storage facilities so that gear may be
tively short trips to the dive sites. Hori-   left overnight. Rinse tanks contain-
zon Divers came under new ownership           ing disinfectant for wetsuits and gear
last year but many of the staff were still    are available at dockside. Although we
there. The quality may be a little lower      experienced conditions that made div-
than before. We felt less like guests, and    ing almost impossible, the staff at It’s a
more like customers. There was some           Dive are so professional they made the
evidence of hurricane (Wilma) damage:         trip worthwhile.
sponges rolling on the bottom, freshly
broken pillar coral. Many good dives.         It’s A Dive, Marriott Key Largo, June
We stayed at the Ramada for the first          2006, Ian Kennedy (imkennedy@
time, having stayed at the Best Western       ucdavis.edu), Davis, CA. Experience:
Suites during past trips. My wife liked       101-250 dives. Vis: 50 to 70 Feet. Water:
it a lot better: brighter, newer, better      82 to 84 F. It’s A Dive is at the Marriott.
breakfast and pool. I liked the extra         Generally, there were about 12 to 14
room and two baths at the BW. Both            people on board, though when we went
are a short walk to Horizon Divers.           to the Spiegel Grove there were only six.
Book them through Horizon Divers for          On the first day, severe thunderstorms
a good (best?) price. Incidentally, the       rolled in while we were under the water.
nearby Tower of Pizza makes a great           I was looking around to see who had
post-dive meal.                               the giant strobe on their camera. It was
                                              actually lightning. Fortunately, nobody
It’s A Dive, Marriott, November               was electrocuted. We went diving on
2005, John W. Griffis III, Sarasota,           the wreck of the Benbow and then
FL. (jwgriffisiii@verizon.net) Experi-         on Elbow reef. Those were to 35 feet.
ence: 501-1000 dives. Vis: 30 to 40 Feet.     Allotted time of 60 minutes. The City
Water: 78 to 81 F, choppy, surge. It’s        of Washington was probably the nicest
a Dive is a 5-star PADI resort. They          site that we visited. There was a large
are in the Marriott Hotel complex on          grouper under the boat, weighing a
the bay side of Key Largo, FL. They           couple of hundred pounds, and a few
are a professional, well-run operation.       nurse sharks at the bottom. Went to the
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Spiegel Grove. I have been diving on         our party broke a piece of gear (the first
the wreck twice before when the wreck        dive of the first day); they loaned him a
was on its side. It is upright, thanks to    replacement one — loaned! It’s A Dive
the intervention of Hurricane Dennis         changes your tanks in between dives,
a year ago. We explored the bow of the       drinks on board — bottled water, not
ship down to about 100 feet, working         out of the cooler. Great dive briefing,
our way out over the superstructure to       some history of the site, what may be
gain a little extra bottom time. There       seen. Four dives on the Spiegel Grove.
was a bit of current at depth, but this      Slight current on surface. dive safe.
was nice easy Florida diving.                UW Photography Comments: Camera
                                             bucket of water and carry on boat;
It’s A Dive, Marriott Key Largo Bay          crews instruct all not to rinse any other
Resort, August 2006, Allan Baldwin           items, great for video lens and camera.
(a.baldwin@comcast.net), Oak Park,
IL. Experience: 101-250 dives. Vis: 40 to    Our Own Boat/Our Own RV, May
50 Feet. Water: 84 to 86 F, calm. We had     2006, Bruce Wallace (laos62@aol.
3 new divers looking for a long week-        com), Indianapolis, IN. Experience:
end trip from Chicago as well as two         Over 1000 dives. Vis: 60 to 100 Feet.
small children to entertain. The new         Water: 82 to 85 F, choppy, surge. My
divers got a view of diving other than       wife (100+ dives) and I (1000+) dives
Midwest quarries, the resort facilities      arrived in Key Largo in May 2006 for a
and surrounding attractions kept the         four-month stay to dive the Pennekamp
children happy, and the two experi-          and Florida Marine Sanctuary. We own
enced divers found enough to make the        a 16’ inflatable hard hull boat rigged for
dives interesting. Best was the service      scuba diving. Our RV camp was right
from the crew of It’s a Dive. They were      on the Adams Cut with direct access
professional, friendly and always ready      to Largo Sound and the open Atlantic.
to provide help. The Spiegel Grove was       Our runs to the reefs averaged 20 min-
an interesting wreck but a strong cur-       utes. We started at Carysfort Reef/Light
rent kept it challenging until we were       and spent the next four months diving
protected by the wreck. Since we held        nearly every mooring buoy down to
tight onto the line all the way down, a      Molasses Reef at the extreme south
pair of gloves would have made the trip      end of the Pennekamp Sanctuary. We
more comfortable. The reef dives were        dove depths from 5 feet to 130 feet with
shallow (30ft) with lots of clusters of      general conditions of no current (or
coral and small fish. It was easy to just     not noticeable), waves between dead
sit in one place and watch.                  calm and 2 feet, visibility averaging
                                             60 to 70 feet (measured by two divers
It’s A Dive, Marriott Hotel, Septem-         holding up fingers) and mostly on reefs
ber 2006, David N Scarborough,               with the usual Grove, Duane, Bibb and
Douglasville, GA. (david@wan2dive.           Benwood wrecks thrown in for interest
com)Experience: 251-500 dives. Vis:          and T-shirts. The Benwood was our
50 to 75 Feet. Water: 80 to 84 F, calm.      favorite at 35 feet (average), distributed
The hotel (resort) rates drop greatly        debris field, tons of hiding places and
if trip is booked with dive shop, great      the greatest “scare” of all when a group
deal! We have been diving with them          of tarpon “fly” through your dive area.
for several years. The service at the shop   Name the reef fish in the books and
and on the boats is great. One diver of      they were there. Most fish are people
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friendly as they see hundreds and            next to the buoy and were able to grab
hundreds of divers and snorkelers every      the line and descend to the wreck with
day. The barracuda are nerve-racking         little effort. When we came up, the boat
as they have been fed by dive operators      was bow first and we drifted back to the
and show little wariness to approach-        stern and got on board with the boat
ing divers. This can be disconcerting        as protection against the wave action;
when we were easily approached within        on another day a couple who were new
a couple of feet by 4- to 5-foot great       to diving came up rather far (maybe
barracudas looking for a “hand out”          15 yards) and down wind from the
(try to keep your hands close to your        boat, which would have meant a tough
body and use the camera housing for          swim back to the boat — John dropped
your defense). We dove over 100 dives        the mooring and moved the boat to
in the four months. Air refills from          them so they could easily board. The
World Watersports were $2 each. We           captains move your equipment from
dove 80s, 63s and a 50 to see how our        the spent tank to the new tank before
time was impacted. The 63s were the          you even get your mask and weight belt
best as they were lighter and we still       off so you were all set for the second
exceeded 60 minutes (or wife’s thermal       dive before you left the first dive site.
limits). There is simply no need to dive     They want you on the boat with 500
80s when max depth is less than 100          psi or after you have been down an
feet. We shot over 1,000 still pics and 30   hour; other than that, dive as you want.
hours of digital video. All in all, it was   Sometime there are so many fish you
an “Endless Summer” to be remem-             have to almost push them aside. We saw
bered.                                       nurse sharks almost on every dive, nu-
                                             merous rays, morays, groupers, angels.
Quiescence, Ocean Point Condo,               I ship my equipment down UPS so I
April 2006, Ched Miller, Kingston,           don’t have to hassle with the airlines,
NH. (ched_d_miller@raytheon.                 my reservations were as requested and
com), Experience: Over 1000 dives.           we were able to change them around to
Vis: 50 to 100 Feet. Water: 78 to 76 F,      accommodate some changes. The shop
calm, choppy. I dove with Quiescence         is a scuba ranger shop and SCUBA
(Q) Dive (mm103.5) for two weeks. Q          Steve gave my 10-year-old grandson
runs three 6 packs out of Key Largo.         a great introductory scuba lesson in a
They know the best dive spots based          nearby pool. They are a topnotch shop.
on the weather and ocean conditions.         I stayed at an Ocean Point Condo, only
Their captains know diving and how           ocean side condo with a beach — it has
to ensure the divers have the least          a pool and tennis courts. The continen-
hassles given the diving conditions. Two     tal breakfast was just what you needed
examples: we were diving the Spiegel         before going diving. Ask for a condo in
Grove and it was blowing pretty good         building 4 or 5 since they have ocean
— all the other dive boats on the site       views.
were tied up bow first to the mooring
buoys and their divers were going off        Rainbow Reef, April 2006, Glenn
the stern and having to swim/pull their      Voshell, Bradenton, FL. Experience:
way up to the buoy to descend. John          75-100 dives. Vis: 90 to 100 feet. Water:
had us suit up while we were still com-      74 to 78 F, calm and flat. We have been
ing up to the site and then tied up stern    diving with Rainbow Reef of KL for 3
first so we stepped off the boat right        years. They will book your dives and
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hotel for you. You can cost out your         visibility so you may tie up to a site or
trip in advance using their exceptional      two before jumping into the water. A
web site. You cannot book via the web        divemaster is always available to guide
site, unfortunately, which subjects you      a dive, but most divers were happy to
to numerous phone calls and emails as        dive their own profiles. The captains
you attempt to confirm your arrange-          know the sites well and provide good
ments. Administratively, they are a          reviews and suggestions on what to
disorganized mess. You must have your        see and where to find it. They got us to
confirmation # prior to arrival or you        the dive sites that we wanted to dive,
may not have a room and not at the           specifically, the wrecks which tend to
rate quoted to you. Once you get past        get crowded. So, we headed out a little
all this, they have good boats that leave    earlier to dive the Spiegel Grove, Eagle
right from the hotel and great long-         and the Duane. They have several dive
term captains. Other dive staff turns        boats and their large boat was out for
over a lot, but their dive guides are usu-   repair when we were there so we were
ally good as are captain’s orientations.     a little crowded on their 2 smaller
There was an instructor there from           boats (12 divers per boat that should
Miami with a class of 16 completing          have held 8-10), but since it was all our
checkout dives and he freely instructed      group, we were OK with the crowding.
the captain where he wanted to go for        The wrecks are amazing, with tremen-
both dives. Other passengers had no say      dous fish life including schools of jacks
so shallow 30-foot dives were the only       and snapper and a Goliath grouper on
option. He even had the captain move         the Eagle. The Ramada Inn is right next
the boat on the second dive because          to the dock and within walking distance
the captain had moored to the wrong          of a few good restaurants. The food in
ball as far as he was concerned. He was      the area is fairly good and not too over-
a real shitbird and the captain was a        priced. The hotel has a great pool and
wuss. (I know you’ll have to leave that      hot tub. UW Photography Comments:
last line out if you were to print this.)    The boat had a separate rinse tank for
In spite of everything I’d still dive with   cameras and the staff was helpful hand-
the Rainbow Reef folks again.                ing you the camera when you entered
                                             the water and collecting it from you at
Rainbow Reef, Ramada Inn, April              the end of the dive. No dry work area
2006, Jeremy Ellis, Atlanta, GA.             on the boat or at the dock.
(jeremyellis@earthlink.net) Experi-
ence: 251-500 dives. Vis: 50 to 75 Feet.     Scuba-Do, Marina Del Mar, July 2006,
Water: 80 to 82 F, choppy. The dive staff    Melissa Good (merwolf@bellsouth.
is friendly and helpful. Some divemas-       net), Pembroke Pines, FL. Experience:
ters are young and don’t always show         101-250 dives. Vis: 70 to 100 Feet. Wa-
up promptly for the boat to depart in        ter: 80 to 84 F, calm, choppy. This was
the morning. The nitrox fills tended to       my first time diving in Pennekamp Ma-
be on the low side (30% to 31%) and          rine Park. We made arrangements with
we had to bring our own analyzer as          Scuba-Do and Laurie via email. She
there wasn’t one on the boat. Once out       was friendly and helpful, and remained
on the water, the service is solid. The      friendly and helpful throughout the
boats are equipped with first aid kit,        dive. We stayed at the Marina Del Mar,
oxygen, etc. The staff chooses the sites     right at the Marina that Scuba-Do ties
to minimize currents and maximize            up in along with many other opera-
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tions. The marina also has the boat           com), Winchester, KY. Experience: 40
African Queen moored there (from the          dives. Vis: 50 to 80 feet. Water: 75 to
movie) which is an interesting five-           80 F, calm and flat. Fantastic visibility,
minute study. They have glass bottom          loads of marine life (large and small),
boats, which was a good pick for our          brightly-colored coral. However, they
non-diving friend to see what she was         loaded the maximum number of divers
missing. The hotel had decent service,        (25) on their boat. Although service
and the rooms were well laid out and          was slightly impersonal, they did head
good for families with a kitchen and          counts and roll-calls to make sure
Murphy beds. It was dog friendly. My          everyone got back on the boat. DMs left
Labrador liked the room as well. Div-         a lot to be desired.
ing in Pennekamp was wonderful. The
first day we were the only two divers          Key West
on the boat but they took us anyway.          Subtropic Dive Shop, June 2006, John
Weather was windy, and the seas were          A. Fletcher (john_fletcher@bellsouth.
choppy but the viz was fine and we saw         net), Pelham, AL. Experience: 26-50
a number of turtles as well as the usual      dives. Vis: 15 to 30 Feet. Water: choppy.
tropicals. The coral was mostly benches       An act of vandalism at the dive shop
and undercuts, full of life and the           cost them a day’s business. But they
fish let you get close to take pictures.       handled it like pros. Tropical Storm
Second day of diving was flat calm.            Alberto would practically ruin my
Excellent viz, large swim through coral       UWP opportunities. Both days were
formations. I was the first one in the         “Captains Calls” and they were won-
water and as the bubbles cleared I was        derful (given the underwater particle
about face to face with a black tip reef      “snow storm”). My first day of diving
shark, who had a buddy, and a couple          was on Sand Key and Rock Key. They
of nurse friends swimming around be-          were covered up with usual tropicals
low. Nice fish life, nice viz, nice weather.   and the corals, seafans, and sponges
Scuba-Do is a small operation. The dive       were plentiful and healthy. We dove on
briefings were excellent, the captain/di-      the Cayman Salvor and Joe’s Tug. Both
vemaster Tony was as helpful as you           were impressive wrecks with lots of
needed him to be, the fills were all over      adolescent fish and the usual critters.
3000. They had water on the boat and          On Joe’s Tug, I had to jockey around
a cooler — you bring everything else.         with my camera and dive knife to cut
You sit on the back deck and they bring       away several multi-hook fishing lines . .
your tank and BC to you, get in, fall         . that stuff is still illegal in a SPA, right?
over. They help you out, and change           I was rewarded by an adolescent log-
your tanks. Nice dual ladders to get out      gerhead turtle hanging out on the bow.
with, take your fins off first. My friend       I went over the port-side to the sand
had a brand new mask - Laurie spent           and came across a large adult Goliath
our hour surface interval working it          Grouper that was about the size of a
over to kill the fogging and it worked.       small refrigerator! By the way, female
Good team, nice boat, great experience.       manatees and calves hang out and regu-
Dedicated bucket on the boat. No real         larly visit the dock area.
dry space to open or use cameras.
Sea Dweller’s Dive Center, July 2006,         Marathon Key
Christopher Diaz (cdiaz71@hotmail.            Abyss Dive Center, Holiday Inn Mara-
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thon Key, August 2005, Joe Sindorf           dives were spectacular. One nice thing
(jsindorf@gmail.com), Rockford, MI.          ... actually a very nice thing ... if you are
Experience: 26-50 dives. Vis: 40 to 85+      doing multiple day dives, you can hang
Feet. Water: 78 to 82 Fahrenheit, calm,      your gear in the shop and not have to
choppy, surge. Tremendous operation.         try to store wet stuff in your small hotel
This is a family owned and operated          room. This was a real benefit. When
shop and it is very well done. The boat      you go, beg to dive at Pillar Patch — a
is in great condition and is fast. It is     tremendously healthy group of Pillar
small, so you don’t have the crowds you      Coral teeming with fish. This was the
get on a big pontoon dive platform.          second week of a two-week dive vaca-
Cold drinks are provided on board, and       tion in the Keys. We loved it. There are
there is plenty of comfortable seating,      tons of great restaurants; email me for
either inside or outside. We booked          more info on those. Abyss dive shop has
the package deal with the Holiday Inn        great, friendly people who made us feel
which is on the same property as the         welcome, safe and comfortable.
Abyss shop. You will probably never get
a better deal on room and diving. This       Pompano Beach
was very inexpensive and a great value.      Parrot Island Scuba Adventures,
But do not call the Holiday Inn about        November 2005, Joni and Bobby Lamb
this, you have to book with Abyss. Very      (scubalovers@comcast.net), Rich-
convenient to walk out of our room           mond Hill, GA. Experience: 251-500
right to the dive boat. The Holiday Inn      dives. Vis: 50 to 60 Feet. Water: 76 to
is nothing to write home about. It is        78 F, choppy. Reasonably priced, safety
just your basic, well, Holiday Inn. We       conscious, and accommodating. With
were on a family vacation and got two        captain Jerry Turmaine, along with
adjoining rooms. The teen daughters          a different DM each day we logged
had their own room and my wife               eight dives in four days. The boat,
and I had our own room. Nice thing           Fathoms of Fun, is in great condition,
— we didn’t have to pay extra for this       it has plenty of room, and a nice dive
since the package is per person double       platform. Freshwater shower, a head, a
occupancy. Only disappointment:              camera table, and cold sodas and water.
we booked our week of diving far in          Fathoms of Fun is at the marina next
advance and when we got there wanted         to the Hillsboro Inlet drawbridge in
to change one day dive and have a night      Pompano Beach. Even with chop and
dive instead — they would not do the         cool temperatures, the dive sites were
switch. I can see their point, but it felt   wonderful. We were at a different wreck
a bit cheap. Also they had a change of       and different reef each day. Reef dives
policy with the hotel so although we         are drift dives and each buddy team is
were told we got a breakfast buffet with     required to tow a dive flag marker (local
our package, we arrived at breakfast the     law). We saw morays, snooks, stingrays,
first day to find that had been cancelled      puffers, trunkfish, parrotfish, spadefish,
... not a huge deal, but a disappoint-       butterfly fish, damselfish, and more.
ment, and there was no adjustment in         Hurricane Wilma had torn up the
cost for the package. But, even with         beaches and buildings, but the marine
those two minor issues, we loved diving      life was unscathed.
here. The quantity of the fish did not
seem as good as Key Largo, but the           Scuba Time Charter, Sand Harbor
                                             Resort and Marina, September 2006,
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 The Wider Caribbean                                             UNITED STATES
Scott Fried, Levittown, NY. Experience:      ber 2005, Dave Bridenbaugh
150 dives. Vis: 20 to 50 feet. Water: 83     (dtbriden@fuse.net), Cincinnati, OH.
to 87 F, calm and flat, choppy. Scuba         Experience: 375 dives. Vis: 25 to 50
Tyme Charter is based at the Sand            Feet. Water: 70 to 75 F, choppy, surge,
Harbor Marina right over the Atlantic        currents. Great dive operation and
Ave. Bridge at the intercostal waterway      the folks are great to deal with. They
in Pompano. The operator is set up for       have two boats, smaller 30’ and a big-
both new and experienced diver. The          ger 42 footer. Nitrox is available and
crew is friendly and will help you load      a full service Dive Shop. The Motel in
your tanks onto the vessel as you carry      Islamorada, Sunset Inn, was a bargain
the rest of your gear. Between dives         place and nothing fancy but clean
they are there to swap out your tanks.       rooms and close to nice restaurants.
The crew is well trained and puts safety     Diving the Keys is always somewhat iffy
first. Head counts before leaving the         during Dec. Though the weather can
docks and after each dive. I found the       be nice and in the 80s there are usually
Captain, Bryan (former divemaster)           winds and waves. We had two trips
well informed on the dive sites and he       (out the 6 dive days) canceled because
has a few that are secret. He will make      of winds and high chop. There seems
sure that you have good dives. The dive-     to be a visibility problem this time of
masters, Chris and Amanda, wait to be        year because of it, but the deep dives
asked a question; just look in their di-     were nice. We had a couple dives on
rection and they are there. Briefings on      the Duane and saw lots of barracuda
the dives are detailed. If diving a wreck,   and grouper as well as a giant hawksbill
usually the divemaster will go and set a     turtle. Numerous parrotfish and the
line and will give a report and vis and      usual reef creatures. A two-tank dive on
current and if there were any special        the Spiegel Grove was neat. This vessel
creatures. If you are planning to catch      has some nice fish hanging though it
your dinner, Bryan will drop them off        is too new for much coral growth. It is
first and drop wreck divers and photo         big and will take several dives to see it.
takers next. You can expect to see large     A nice dive is the Eagle wreck which
to small game, such as sharks to sea-        has been down for about 20 years. It
horses. The coral life is good and well      has lots of big fish including goliath
cared for. As for wrecks, there is a host    grouper and we saw a couple reef
from old to new, from coral-encrusted        sharks. Lots of cudas as well. There are
to just plain old rusted. Proper skin        a number of reefs that have abundant
protection is a must, along with gloves.     fish life, however, we experienced a lot
The Sand Harbor Resort and Marina            of surge and poor visibility.
is 50 yards from the boat docks. Scuba
Tyme gets divers a reduced rate. The         Conch Republic Divers, The Ragged
hotel was on the older side. The rooms       Edge, January 2006, Matthew Nathan
are basic; nothing special. For hang-        (mattnathan@hotmail.com), San
ing wet gear, I had to make do with the      Francisco, CA. Experience: 51-100
cheap plastic chair and table on the         dives. Vis: 40 to 50 Feet. choppy. The
porch.                                       first day, a cold front moved in. With
                                             winds 25-40 mph and rough seas all
Tavernier                                    dives were canceled. The next day winds
                                             died down. I was a solo diver and,
Conch Republic Divers, Decem-                rather than buddy up with a random
206
    UNITED STATES                                           The Wider Caribbean
diver, decided to hire a Conch Republic        age on the last dive. Conch Republic
dive guide for each of the deeper wreck        runs a tight boat. In and out on time,
dives (the Eagle, Duane and Spiegel            no slip-ups, cheerful and helpful crew.
Grove). Great decision. Unless you             Two-man crew handled a crowded boat
are an experienced wreck diver with            with aplomb. An additional hanging
knowledge of these waters, don’t do            rack for dive skins and BCDs would
the wrecks without a guide. Water was          be nice. Last boat in had no place to
cold (72 F) and my full 3mm wetsuit            hang wet gear other than over the stuff
didn’t cut it. I rented another three mil      already hanging there. Fish life seemed
shorty which did the trick. Reef dives         thinner than my last visit. Fewer ‘cuda
were long, shallow and uneventful. Lots        and grouper. Schools of Atlantic spade-
of tropical fish and critters and decent        fish were absent. But there were plenty
coral. The reefs are nice, not amazing.        of striped grunts, file fish, pipe fish,
                                               and other little guys. A goliath grou-
Conch Republic Divers, Ocean Pointe            per is in residence in Spiegel Grove’s
Suites, May 2006, Richard Sziede               wheelhouse. (Some wag wondered if
(dsziede@hotmail.com), Reston, VA.             Florida would rename Jewfish creek.)
Experience: 101-250 dives. Vis: 60 to 80       Most shallow sites have a complement
Feet. Water: 77 to 78 F, calm. The sixth       of nurse sharks. Got good footage of a
time is the charm. The Spiegel Grove           high hat patrolling a coral cave under
has always been my bad-luck dive.              the nose of a green moray. Lobsters
Previous attempts all came a cropper.          and crabs. Ocean Pointe Suites had
First try, the damn thing hadn’t sunk.         some negative reviews on travel sites.
Second: flooded camera. Third: Wilma.           They lived down to them. Fishing boats
Conch Republic Divers had three                bring their catch right to their favorite
Spiegel Grove dives this weekend. I did        restaurants like Fish House, or Snap-
all three. Finally overcame my jinx. All       pers. Don’s Diner in Key Largo provides
three dives had wicked current. Up and         a belly-bustin’ breakfast. Atlantic’s Edge
down on the mooring line, hung out             in the upscale Cheecha Lodge is not
like flags, attended by a school of curi-       much more expensive than Fish House,
ous barracuda. First dive I missed the         with a big step up in ambiance. A wed-
mooring line for the ascent. My com-           ding in the lodge presented a South
puter was deep into the yellow zone,           Florida fashion show that was a refresh-
so rather than spend time hunting for          ing change from Washington DC’s
the line, we came up free. Current put         boring business suits. Many guests wore
us way out of swimming distance from           Florida’s high-maintenance woman
the boat. Scenes from “Open Water”             uniform: dress too tight, makeup too
began playing in the back of my mind.          thick, tottering on Manolo Blahnik
Another dive boat sent a swimmer with          shoes.
a rope, and we were soon reunited with
Conch Republic. The divemasters were           Divers City, Island Bay Resort, Sep-
kind about my blunder. The second and          tember 2005, Clare Petosa, Neptune,
third dives we kept the mooring line in        NJ. Experience: 101-250 dives. Vis: 50
sight. My jinx held for the second dive.       to 100 Feet. Water: 82 to 86 F, calm,
I had rigged the video housing slightly        currents. If you are going to do wreck
off. It didn’t leak, but I couldn’t turn       diving in Key Largo, look up Divers
the camera on, a fact I didn’t learn ‘till I   City. Knowledgeable about wreck and
was in water. Finally got good foot-           technical diving. Good safety proce-
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 The Wider Caribbean                                           UNITED STATES
dures — will let you dive your own          Upon arriving at a location, a crew
plan. Boat takes 8 — plenty of room.        member takes the boat anchor directly
Barb and Bob are great captains!            down to the wreck. An additional line
                                            was run on the wreck to help you find
North Carolina                              your way back to the anchor at the end
                                            of the dive. The boat had safety lines at
Atlantis IV, May 2006, Clay Coleman         15 feet and a safety tank was also in the
(clayco@mindspring.com), Baton              water. The wrecks are wonderful, with
Rouge, LA. Experience: Over 1000            a great amount of both small and large
dives. Vis: 30 to 50 Feet. Water: 65 to     marine life. There were sharks, bar-
72 F, choppy, no currents. The Atlantis     racudas, jacks and lion fish. Even in the
IV is a comfortable boat and the crew       off season the boats were almost full of
is friendly and first-rate. The weather      divers. I wore a 5mm suit; other divers
is volatile in May, and water tempera-      had anywhere from a 3mm shorty to a
ture can vary significantly day-to-day.      dry suit. The main problem this time
We were able to dive on 4 of 5 planned      of year was the weather. I got there a
dive days. My goal on this trip was to      week after a storm. There was another
photograph sand tiger sharks on the         storm that stayed about 500 miles away.
wrecks, and I was not disappointed. We      The diving is 25 miles out to sea and
encountered them on every dive, and         the swells were hurting the visibility.
we often encountered many. We also          The third day was canceled due to sea
found a surprising number of lionfish        conditions.
on the wreck of the Papoose. Most of
our dives were on the Papoose (we also      Outer Banks Diving, Marlin, July 2006,
made 2 on the Spar), and depths were        Rick Tuss (rtuss@aol.com), Wilming-
in the 90-120 foot range. We made           ton, DE. Experience: 501-1000 dives.
only 2 dives per day, which required a      Vis: 70 to 100 Feet. Water: 72 to 80 F,
full day at sea. Despite the deep (short)   choppy, currents, no currents. Outer
dives, the area was one of the most         Banks Diving has upgraded their boat.
fascinating I’ve seen. Very camera-savvy    The Flying Fish is bigger, faster, drier,
crew, plenty of fresh water rinse.          and just overall nicer. Johnny and crew
                                            run the best dive boat out of Hatteras.
Olympus Dive Center, America Suites,        Johnny has always been an extremely
September 2006, Steven Rosenfeld            competent captain, but he seems to
(oceanstevenr@adelphia.net), West-          have been upgraded with the boat. I
lake Village, CA. Experience: 501-1000      think Johnny has been taking nice pills!
dives. Vis: 15 to 40 Feet. Water: 76 to     We lucked out with the weather and got
78 F, choppy. I stayed at Ameri Suites      in 3 out of 3 days although it was a bit
for about $75 a night. The dive center      lumpy at times. The diving: spectacular.
runs two boats on weekends. The boats       Hatteras, especially the Proteus, has
leave at 7 am and return around 3 pm.       always provided me some of the most
You do 2 dives with a 2-hour surface        eclectic dives anywhere. Imagine doing
time between dives. Both boats have a       a giant stride into the water, looking
restroom but no food or drinks. They        down and seeing a wreck laid out 120
have a cooler if you want to bring your     feet below you (yes, +120 ft vis). Go
own supplies. The diving is all done        down the anchor line and make your
in 100 ft. plus water. It is a well run     way to the stern passing parts of the
operation and makes it safe and easy.       fantastic wreck, numbers tropicals,
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barracuda, spades, triggers, etc., oh, and   going to the anchor line and then to
a few stray sand tigers. Reach the stern     the wreck. There is a 6 rung open end
and start counting the sand tigers . . .     ladder with abrasive coating for easy
couldn’t. There were maybe 50, any-          exit with your fins on or hand gear to
where from 3 to 11 feet, and a 300 lbs.      the mate and climb up. Suiting up is
goliath grouper in the middle!               roomy as there are only 3 people on
                                             each bench, back to back, facing the
Under Pressure, August 2006, Garry           boat rail, During the trip, you could
Gough (gpgough@optonline.net),               stay in the A/C cabin with the captain
W. Paterson, NJ. Experience: 251-500         and watch DVDs of other dives on a
dives. Vis: 40 to 100 Feet. Water: 78 to     flat screen or just talk. On the return
82 F, calm, choppy, currents, no cur-        trip they would make popcorn for us.
rents. North Carolina- Hatteras Village      Out of the 18 dives we made during
at end of Outer Banks. We liked it so        July and August, you could have 30’ to
much we came back 2 more times in            100’ viz, water temps stayed around 80
August, despite the required 9-hour          degrees, with current from minimal
drive. The Gulf Stream makes it to           to screaming. Most dives had minimal
Hatteras, so during the high season the      to slight current with viz around 60’+
water temps are around 80 degrees, the       and smooth seas. Wildlife was prolific.
wildlife is prolific with tropicals you       Thousands of bait fish, schools of
typically see in Florida along with a lot    Atlantic spade, sting rays, many oyster
of Northern cold water fish including         toad fish, too many fish to appreciate.
many sharks. The boat service was the        Dozens of sharks, mostly sand tiger in
best I’ve had. Typical trip is a max of      the 5’ to 8’ range. In all our dives we
6 divers on a 45’ boat with 2 mates in       only saw one bull shark and 2 nurse
addition to the Capt., J.T. Barker. Price    sharks. Dolphins were seen on 1/4 of
is $125 for a 2-tank dive, $10 for air,      our dive trips circling the boat. There
leaving around 7:30am and getting            are tropicals but not in huge amounts.
back to the dock between 3-4 p.m. JT         You can see angels, triggers, hogs, and
would consult us on where we would           others typical to a Caribbean reef along
like to dive while finding out from           with lion fish that are not endemic to
other boats what kind of conditions          our ocean. They do not have a DM
we could expect at different wreck           doing a dive with you. JT will let you
sites. Depending on the wreck, it was        dive on your own profile. You should
a 2-hour + trip. The mate would tie us       be comfortable in dive planning and
into the wreck, we’d hit the water and       open ocean diving, but if this is your
during the 2-hour surface interval the       first time and you’d like a DM with you,
mate would cook us hot dogs and chips        the option is open to discussion. On a
or you could bring your own food for         good day, you would think you were
the grill. They provide a cooler for you     diving in the Caribbean. We stayed at
to bring other snacks, drinks, etc. We       the Breakwater Inn, 2 miles away, which
would then select another wreck and          had a new section facing the bay. The
head back in. Some people would spear        rooms had small kitchen setups. UW
fish. The boat is 45’ and completely          Photography Comments: I have a video
refurbished this year. You are able to       and light setup. They would hold and
sleep on the boat if you desire. Entry to    hand my setup to me once I was in the
the water was back roll or giant stride,     water in the manner I requested and
then 15’ down a line to the granny line
                                                                                209
 The Wider Caribbean                             VIRGIN ISLANDS — BRITISH
take it from me before exiting the water.   expected — coral is quickly recovering
There isn’t any camera table or bucket      from latest Caribbean bleaching event.
large enough for the camera to soak in      In the first 2 dives, I was the only diver
between dives. I used a cooler bucket to    in the boat. Saw eagle rays, large sting-
store my setup and they do have fresh       rays, lobsters, turtles, a large 4’ cobia,
water hoses to rinse the equipment off.     tunicates aplenty, clinging crabs, jaw-
                                            fish, and the usual Caribbean reef fish,
South Carolina                              including queen triggerfish. For those
                                            looking for a pampered diving vacation
Cooper River Diving, August 2006,           with excellent service, great meals and
Wm. DiGiovanni, Bishopville, SC.            superb beaches, look no further! And
Experience: 1500+ dives. Vis: 1 foot.       Randy Keil’s (dive shop owner) enthu-
Water: 80 F, strong currents. John          siasm for diving is truly contagious.
knows Cooper River well. Dove Red           UW Photography Comments: Camera
Bank; swift current; you must go down       bucket available in the boat.
anchor line. Found sharks’ teeth. Rice
Hope Plantation, current still strong;      Tortola
found more teeth, saw shrimp, crabs,
small half-dollar size flounder and          UBS Divers, Tamarind Club, Decem-
small fish.                                  ber 2005, Chuck Levine, Red Lion, PA.
                                            (cblevine@suscom.net), Experience:
                                            101-250 dives. Vis: 50 to 75 Feet. Water:
VIRGIN ISLANDS —                            78 to 81 F, choppy, surge. Decided that
                                            I needed a few days away to clear my
BRITISH                                     head under the waters of the Carib-
Patch reef diving on these closely          bean due to my wife’s health concerns
grouped islands is easy, pleasant,          and was able to coordinate reason-
and fairly similar despite which            able airfare (USAirways connecting to
island you choose. The islands are          Win-Air in SXM), lodging (Tamarind
small, friendly, and great getaways.        Club), and private diving (UBS Dive
                                            Center). Website for Tamarind Club
Peter Island                                described a beautiful, intimate 9 room
                                            hotel with onsite restaurant, pool, and
Paradise Watersports, Peter Island          airport transfers included. Rooms were
Resort, July 2006, Lourdes De Carde-        clean, AC, shower and fridge. Meals
nas (delfin_boricua@yahoo.com),              were fantastic and reasonably priced for
San Juan, PR. Experience: 251-500           the islands. Entertainment at night was
dives. Vis: 70 to 100 Feet. Water: 80       loud and late, but the owners put me
to 82 Fahrenheit, calm. Peter Island        in the farthest room from the pool area
offers world-class service and excel-       to minimize the disturbance. Airport
lent meals. This is a great resort with     transfers only means one way: cost me
beautiful beaches. Diving in the BVIs       $20 from the airport (actual one-way
is very good — waters are part of a         fare is $7-8 so paying $20 one-way
protected underwater park. Diving was       covers the r/t). UBS Divers advertises:
very relaxed and divemasters took care      “private dive boats for you and your
of tank changes and carried and set-up      group of family or friends, it will always
equipment in the mornings. Coral con-       be just your group onboard the boat.
ditions were actually much better than      Land based guests can choose from half

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